Sticking within the confines of a singular garment, one as staple as a white shirt can be difficult for two designers with as much creative scope and talent as Levi Palmer and Matthew Harding. However the duo have largely stuck to their guns, refining that one garment, moulding it and shaping it with finesse into pieces that are often elevated about a simple boring white shirt. That said seeing as Levi and Matthew have self-stamped themselves with authority on this humble garment, it's only fair that they proffer up some tips on how to keep our cotton whites bright and sharp. Therefore for one post only, I've asked the guys to go all Mrs Beeton on us and share with us their lengthy tips on how to maintain your white shirts. I've already committed a few misdemeanors according to their guidelines, namely dry cleaning white shirts which is why I've ended up with a few griege accidents. Never again! I'm also going to be trying to the travel spritzer tip as wrinkles on the go are sort of the bain of my life and the reason why I look permanently dishevelled.
Tip 1. With white cotton shirts – NEVER dryclean. There is essentially a coating on white poplin that keeps the white white. Drycleaning chemicals essential strip this finish from the fabric revealing the griege fabric underneath (greige is a raw fabric, ready to be dyed or finished). This dulls the white and makes it look sad. Instead, we recommend professional wet-wash. All GOOD drycleaners offer a wetwashing service which is basically when you are too lazy to hand wash your clothes or press 30 degrees on the washing machine. They will wash and iron the shirts properly for you. It is definitely recommended to get someone else to iron your shirts for you, as this is a very tedious process.
Tip 2. If you do have the desire to iron your own shirts, to minimize the amount of effort required, when the shirt is wet from the wash, put it straight onto a hanger and tug out the creases/wrinkles as much as possible. Cotton has a memory and if you leave the shirts in a heap or over a clothes dryer, all of the creases that are in the shirt from washing will be a pain to get out.
Tip 3. Always press your shirt when damp. This will make it much easier and will give a crisp result. If its not straight from the wash then use a spray bottle and mist it with water to dampen it slightly, making it more moist where creases are worse. Start with the cuff and sleeves, then the back yoke. Next the collar, then the back of the shirt and finally the two fronts – ending on the right hand side (if you‚Äôre a woman) so that the top buttonstand is the last thing pressed. (This is how we achieve the best results) Use a little starch on the cuffs and collar if that‚Äôs yer thing.
Tip 4. When pressing a collar always do so from the underside of the collar, press from the outside tips towards the centre, this keeps your collar balanced, as over pressing in the wrong direction will warp the collar over time.
Tip 5. If you travel and need a cost effective wrinkle releaser – mix a tsp of fabric conditioner with a cup of water in a light spritzer. Hang the shirt on a hanger and spritz the wrinkles. Tug and smooth over with your hand to release the wrinkles. It's also a good tip to keep this spritzer mix in your office drawer as it is a quick way to smooth out wrinkles in your outfit before meetings.
Tip 6. While heavy steaming a shirt may get the wrinkles out, more often than not, the steam tightens the seams and leaves a slight puckering effect – always press without steam where possible, if you need additional help use a spritz bottle to dampen the fabric.
Tip 7. Also we haven‚Äôt yet tried this, but apparently to get dull whites looking bright white again try adding a small amount of liquid bluing to the wash. The best known brand is Mrs. Stewart's bluing. It adds a concentrated blue pigment to your home wash to make whites bright again. When fabric mills dye fabrics white they add small amounts of blue pigment to the dye to make the whites more optic, so it couldn't hurt to add this to a wash at home? However, we haven't personally tried this yet as we take our shirts to the cleaners, but many generations of housewives swear by it so it must be good!
Back to the latest palmer//harding S/S 13 collection which sees Palmer Harding expanding bit by bit into other garment realms but mainly so that their core offering of a white shirt has something on the bottom to go with. A shirt is extended into a shirt dress or is seamlessly paired with an assymetric skirt or a shirt tail skirt that acts as a layer to play around with. The array of fine cottons (supported by COTTON USA) gives different opacities to many of the looks with an emphasis on layering the diaphanous with the solid. It's especially effective when the boys bring in strong hits of colour – what they call cinnabar orange with white layered on top. Pale aquamarine also prevents the collection from looking too severe and helps to bring out the whiteness of the shirts. Thin cork is used to add structure to many of the shirts and skirts, creating movement as well as adding an interesting texture contrast. The construction of everything is of course as ever meticulous to the point of obsessive as the duo place such a strong emphasis on their technical pattern cutting, which often becomes a headache for them. They're ultimately strong fashion problem solvers though and in the end triumph with pieces that require day-in and day-out wearing to appreciate the hidden technicalities that make you wonder why the silhouette is formed thus.